The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Raian

 

 

Utopia

I had ideas for a backstory for Johnny. Decided I would write it and interleave scenes from Scott's childhood ...  then Johnny took over. Even though I told him “Shut up, Johnny!” Some salty language. How salty? That will depend on how much salt you're used to.
A companion piece to Home Again (set at end ch.10)

Chapter 1

Johnny listened. His half-brother had big ideas. Seemed excited about them. He sure asked a lot of questions.

“What if people were given a choice from a young age? … To be safe knowing the only thing on the table is what you yourself want to share, not what someone wants to take from you?”

Not aware he was chewing on his hat string, Johnny thought about his past, about choices and things taken.

*****

The far past was hidden in a cloud of fear and hurt.

In the first clear memory, he was happy and safe – maybe that's why it stuck out so much.

Some nameless town in Mexico: crowded adobe buildings making a twisted maze of alleyways; dusty, warm sunshine; bright cloth and thread; Mama happy, her needle flashing as she sewed; her warmth as she hugged him close and put a kiss on his head when he came to say good night. There was a big room all his own. Rooms shrunk as he grew up – but to a small kid, that bedroom was huge.

One day his Mama came home crying. They packed up and left.

It was the same story for a long time. Everywhere they tried to find a home. Mama laughing, then crying. His mother's tears, her voice telling him to hurry, hurry. They had to leave now. She never said why.

He didn't understand why. Until one day he did.

*****

Mama tried to make a good home for her and him. Never a last name – just Maria and Juan.

She sewed and made beautiful things. The rich ladies liked her for her skill and paid well for the silks and fancies. Mama always found work, once they saw what she could do.

She'd take him with her when he couldn't be left with a neighbor or sent to school. He would wait for her in the kitchen. The staff gave him something to eat then ignored him.

He saw the insides of the big houses. Used to dream he and Mama would live in a house like that, before he knew they never would. He watched the rich. Wished he could be like them, until he saw how their fine polish hid evil hearts.

He began to understand – heard the gossip. The man of the house watched Mama. The lady of the house got mad. Soon he saw the pattern, could guess how long it would be before they had to leave again.

Mama was proud. She did not ask for the attention. But Mama was beautiful. Men always watched her. Men always wanted her. But she could run fast.

The men were single-minded. Mama was always polite, lowered her eyes, was respectful. It didn't matter. Those men wanted to take what they called their own.

Johnny feared those men. Powerful, rich – they ruined lives with their wants.

Sometimes she did not run fast enough. She would come home, bleeding and bruised.

He grew to hate those men.

One of them, he caught Johnny, too. Made him watch. They ran far after that. He was old enough by then to remember that man's name: Roybal.

     -----------------------------------------------------------

He wanted to protect Mama, but those men were everywhere.

On the streets in every town, he found other boys who wanted a piece of revenge. For themselves, for their sisters and mamas. Their families had been hurt, too. The bad men were too powerful to fight in the open. Instead, Johnny and his crew got good at picking pockets, at break-and-enter and other crimes.

Mama didn't know what he was doing. He told her he had helped a storekeeper or worked at a stable. Any kind of odd job that seemed likely. Sometimes he really did do those jobs. Not all men were evil. Some did give him real work to do. But he could get more by stealing.

He could bring home money and support Mama so she could choose who she worked for.

In a bigger town, she could pick where she worked. They had plenty, between her work and Johnny's. He was able to go back to school and made a friend. A good friend.

Eduardo was smart but he thought what Johnny was doing was wrong. He and Mama seemed safe in this city, but Johnny could not stop stealing. Johnny would tease Eduardo. Said he should become a judge. If Johnny got in trouble, Eduardo could help.

Johnny remembered that time at school with Eduardo as one of the best. Johnny had enjoyed learning, thanks to his friend. Understood why it was so important. But he still teased Eduardo. Real men rode horses, used knives and guns, even stole things. They didn't read books.

They got along well, Eduardo and him. Eduardo's family was good and respected. Mama knew of them. Johnny saw something of what a real family was like when he went to Eduardo's house. He also used them as an excuse, telling Mama he was at his friend's house when he was really somewhere else.

With his other friends – his bad friends – he played stupid games. Egging each other on. Trying to be the bravest. Doing what they thought you should do to be a man. They thought they were tough.

One day, Johnny met some real gang members, and found how wrong he had been. He wanted to join that gang. There were more of them and they were older. They could go after the most powerful of evil men.

To prove they could trust him, he had to do things. Bad things – things with a knife –  to someone the gang said was an evil man. Johnny shut his eyes to the blood and did what they told him to do. Afterwards, the gang praised him and said he was a brother to all of them. Said they would protect him and Mama.

Eduardo tried to stop him, but Johnny quit school. With the gang's help, he was too busy watching out for Mama and paying back for all the bad times.

Mama heard about what Johnny was doing. She told him to stop. Johnny did not want to stop. He didn't want her to get hurt again. She wouldn't take the money from him anymore, but she was busy and didn't always keep track. He bought things they needed and hid them around the house so she would think she had gotten them herself.

 

Chapter 2

One day, Mama met Rafael. He was always around. Laughing and talking with Mama. Helping her around the house. To give her time to sew, he said. Johnny watched him like a hawk, but he never took a wrong step.

You should be a good boy, he said. Come home and help your mama.

Rafael came by all the time. Brought Mama flowers and gifts. The man even sang to her. Johnny had forgotten she could play the guitar. Sometimes she and Rafael sang together.

Johnny's world was upset. He liked his life, just him and Mama. And his gang who helped keep her safe.

Rafael and Maria got married three months after they met. Mama didn't have to work as much. Stepfather praised the work she did do. He spent a lot of time with her. Mama never seemed happier.

They both told him what to do. Him, a man grown – or near close enough. He'd done all the things men do to support himself and Maria. Now he wasn't needed anymore.

He'd never needed a father. Sure didn't want this one. They said his time wasn't his own He had to be where he was supposed to be, when he said he'd be there. Stepfather laying down the law. Laying on his hands, too, when Johnny sassed Mama.

They fought all the time now – him yelling, her screaming. They'd never fought like that before Rafael showed up.

“How can you be so unkind to your mother. She has worked hard all her life for you.”

“Don't tell me what to do, Old Man. You ain't even my father.”

“I'm more a father to you than your own ever was. Your father threw you and your mother out. Did not want you. Gave her the keys to the road one day and said wait, don't forget buster here.”

Maria had never told Johnny about his real father. This stranger seemed to know about him. That made Johnny mad. “I'm tired of you telling me what to do. I have my own life. I'm old enough to do what I want. Mama and me were doing fine 'til you came along.”

It was Johnny's place to be man of the house. He got mouthy again, tried to show Mama he was a man.

Rafael pulled off his belt and whomped Johnny. “Do not disrespect your mother. She works hard to feed and clothe you.”

Johnny didn't say he'd helped feed and clothe them for years now, for long before Rafael showed up. He was too old for spanking. The man wasn't even his real father.

Johnny should be the only family Maria needed. If she didn't need him, he didn't need her. He stayed away from home when Rafael was there, which was most of the time. Johnny's gang was happy to have him around.

*****

Johnny was fast on his feet. The years of moving from place to place had taught him how to fit in, too. He could easily pass as one of their rich targets. Light eyes were common among the well-to-do Mexican families. Dress Johnny in a fancy Don outfit – the kind Mama could have made – and they had an easy way in.

It was easy to steal, then change clothes and blend back in with the town folk when he was done. That was even easier. There were always lots of mestizo kids around, even in towns not close to the border.

He made top money for the gang. As he grew older, he learned to flirt. How to walk and smile, how to attract the attention of women – especially older women. They liked his attention and were happy to give him money. Another way to hit back at the rich men.

There were more pigeons to pluck in other towns and cities. The gang wanted to try out new hunting grounds.

Eduardo warned him he was wrong. Said he should let his hatred go, but Johnny would not listen. Johnny let Eduardo go instead.

Johnny went home once more, to tell Maria he was taking off to make his own life. His planned, proud leave-taking became another yelling match.

“Why are you going? All I ever wanted was a good life for us. I found a man who wants to love us and pay attention to us. Not one like your father. The great Murdoch Lancer, too busy to care for us. Only caring for his precious ranch.”

Johnny was shocked into silence. His father did have a name.

“You ungrateful boy. I've sacrificed everything for you. I've finally found happiness for myself, and you're tearing it to pieces.” She got closer and closer to him, arms waving. “You are just like your father.”

His anger rose. “I can see why he threw you out. You don't know my friends. You don't care about my life. I'm through here.”

She started to cry. He slammed the door as he left, cutting off the noise of her wails.

It was the last time he saw her alive.

 

Chapter 3

He learned to fight. In the big city, they were always fighting somebody. Usually people in the cantinas. If one of the gang picked a fight, they all fought. Johnny threw his hate and anger out through his fists. In every face he hit, he saw the men who'd hurt Maria.

One day, he heard it: Roybal. That most evil of men had come to the city. Johnny's blood boiled. It was time to get payback for Mama. Johnny got to watch again – this time while his friends paid the bastard what was owed. He would never hurt anyone again. They made sure of that.

*****

Johnny was given a gun. The boss told him to take care of someone who'd left the gang. Leaving wasn't allowed –  everyone hated those who tried. The man hadn't listened to warnings.

Johnny found the man in a dark alley. Hard to see, but Johnny could see well enough to shoot. It wasn't like with a knife. It was cleaner. It wasn't him making the man fall. It was the gun.

The gang leader was pleased and let him keep the gun. Johnny was proud of it. He spent all his time learning to use it. Hatred sharpened his focus. He was a good shot.

Just the sight of the gun reduced strong men to begging for their lives. Johnny learned to push his feelings down deep. His calm and the gun made things even easier. The target would hand over whatever Johnny wanted.

Living in the moment. Ready to kill. That face was powerful. One of the gang told him the ice in that face would freeze the tits off a brass witch.

*****

The more he did for the gang, the more they wanted.

They put him on other jobs. He found out they weren't just going for the bad rich people. They went for anybody who would give them money. Going against shopkeepers, stable owners – this was not getting revenge for what had been done to him and Maria. He did not want to do bad things to the good people, just because they did not pay the gang to be left alone.

The gang said he had to do what he was told. It was more of the same – someone trying to run his life, telling him what to do. The gang wasn't even his real family. But he couldn't get out. Got the worst beating of his life when he tried. The gang leader told him if he tried to leave again, they would get him and Maria.

While he recovered, the rurales came to town. The gang tried to pay them off, but the rich men could pay them more. The gang was hunted down. Many were killed, including their own gang's leader. Johnny was able to slip away.

*****

He went back to tell Maria he was done with lying and stealing – he wouldn't tell her about the rest. He hoped they could start over, make a family with Rafael. But she was dead. Many had left the town when a sickness came. Some didn't come back. Eduardo and his family had gone. His stepfather had gone. No one knew where.

Rafael was a man who truly loved Mama. Johnny should have stayed, should have got to know him. Now it was too late. He had been sure his stepfather couldn't protect her. In the end, she was taken by something no one could fight.

Maria had found the kind of love she was looking for. Her days with Rafael had been happy, except for the grief Johnny gave them.

At her grave, he told her he was sorry.

 

Chapter 4

It was Murdoch Lancer's fault. He had started it all by throwing them out.

Johnny did not return to the gangs. They had not been a real family. He made his way alone, not wanting to be under anyone's rules. He would be his own boss. While he was looking for work, a bunch of pistoleros came to town. Johnny watched them ... he could use a gun, too.

Johnny was hired for one side of a fight. He was too young, they said, but they needed an extra man. He showed them he knew how to shoot. A few of the pistoleros asked him to go with them to the next job. Johnny watched their tricks, practiced and got even faster. This time, all his money was his to keep. The men sometimes gave him advice. It was like a family.

It wasn't long before he met some gunfighters who knew of his father. They told him where the Lancer ranch was. Murdoch Lancer was still alive.

He would show Murdoch Lancer. He'd be the best pistolero of them all. He wished the men he shot were his father.

*****

There was a big range war between ranches near Nogales. A lot of pistoleros were hired. Many of them were named Juan. The Anglo foreman couldn't keep them straight and wanted to call them by last names. There was no way Johnny would call himself Lancer. He said he was Madrid. It was Eduardo's last name.

One day, by luck and skill he took down three gunslicks from the other side. That caught the attention of the boss and the other guns. The name Madrid stuck.

Moving wherever someone wanted to hire a gunfighter, he found people north of the border listened better if he didn't sound Mexican. He worked on his English and called himself John. The men he worked with and for were older than him. They called him Johnny. Johnny Madrid.

People started to recognize his name. Johnny Madrid, good at his trade – he'd get the job done. He was proud of that. It was all he'd ever wanted to be. He quit trying to blend in with the crowd of pistoleros and wore bright, embroidered shirts and calzoneras with shiny silver buttons. He bought a horse, a pinto, the most flashy horse he'd ever seen.

He met men he liked and could work with, even pal around with when they were killing time. But on the next big job they might be fighting for the other side. His horse was his only real friend.

*****

The white men from the east were worst. They came west, used their money to buy land to make big ranches. Most didn't care about the people they pushed out. They just wanted what they'd paid for, and called the land their own.

Some ranch owners did take wives that weren't white. Some did seem able to get along, even seemed to love each other and their kids. But most often, the whites took what they wanted. Just like the rich in Mexico had.

Murdoch Lancer did not want his Mexican wife or her kid. Likely did not want the reminder of the Mexicans he'd stolen his ranch from, once the flush of lust for Maria wore off. As for the Mexicans who might have helped him build up his ranch –  he'd likely kicked them all off, too.

Thinking of Murdoch Lancer filled him with hate. Someday he'd show his father, the great Murdoch Lancer. Someday he'd take back the Lancer ranch for himself and the other Mex that'd been kicked off.

 

Chapter 5

Becoming more equal with the top gunfighters, Johnny found himself more and more alone. The higher levels walked careful around each other. No one wanted to start a stupid fight and get himself shot. There was enough risk of that on the job. But you didn't turn your back. Ambush and backshooting of gunfighter by gunfighter did happen – a quick way to get rid of the competition or cut down the odds, with no one the wiser.

The only way to come out on top. Get them before they got you.

He dodged a bad situation by joining the Mexican army but didn't stay in for long. Another place with too many people telling him what to do. The army did bring home one lesson –  the need to always be tougher and harder than the men he worked with.

The mask he'd first used while working with the gangs got easier and easier to put on. He only showed the icy stillness, hard stare and mocking smile that kept his edge. He used words to prod, to rile other men up until they got careless and showed weaknesses Johnny could take advantage of. It was easy to make others angry. Like waving a red flag before a bull.

People talked about gunfighters. Johnny heard he'd been doing things he knew he had not done, sometimes in places he'd never been. Rumor and exaggeration grew the power of his name and made people fear him even more. Fear was the best weapon.

*****

He and the other gunfighters on the winning side sat on their horses and waited while squatters left. This time, the rancher had been there first. All the gunmen were stone-faced – none cared families were being kicked out. Kicking folks out was their job, after all, part of what they'd been paid to do.

A face in the crowd made Johnny's heart stop. A mama cried as she packed up to leave with her kids. She didn't look like Maria. But the look on her face was one he'd seen too many times.

He rode off after that job and spent time alone with only his pinto for company. Out there, under the big sky at night, he faced the dark growing inside himself. He didn't like the way it felt. Didn't like the thought he might become like those evil men he'd wanted to fight.

A gunfighter couldn't let anything bother him. He didn't know why he could ignore his feelings when he needed to. All the the best gunfighters could. Trouble was, some didn't turn feelings back on afterwards. He didn't want to become like those cold, empty gunmen. They had fallen and hit bottom. Johnny didn't want to follow them down.

Revenge had soured. As a kid, he'd thought it would help – even make him forget. It didn't bring his mother back, didn't undo what was done to her. Didn't stop other men from doing those things. Instead, it made him hate more. Hate was a bad road to go down.

He got sick when he thought about what he'd done. What he'd thought he had to do for the gang. What he'd been paid to do. The faces of those he'd hurt and killed haunted his dreams.

 

Chapter 6

Gunfighting was like a gang. Once you got in, you couldn't get out. What else could he do? Who'd trust him? Give him time to learn a new trade? He could not get away from the fact he was a gunfighter, killing for money.

Johnny Madrid was an expensive gun to hire. More money let him go longer between jobs. He'd escape for a while to small towns where he stayed with normal people. He showed them Madrid could be good. Every time he took a break from gunfighting, he shared what he had and helped where he could.

In the worst range wars, he'd seen things done he should have stopped, but didn't know how. He had been a coward for leaving people to their fates. He got more choosy over who he fought for. Took time to find out about both sides when he could, and tried to pick the one that seemed most right.

He'd be a goner if the other gunfighters ever figured out Johnny Madrid was becoming a do-gooder. He had to be careful and sneaky.

*****

Watching normal families, he saw how lonely his life was. All his own family was gone, or just as good as. He missed the easy friendship he'd shared with Eduardo. But he'd done a lot of bad things and had bad things done to him. No going back now.

He understood now how his stepfather had tried to guide him, teach him manners and set up rules and family time. His mother never had. She let him do what he wanted. He had taken the easy way out –  rebel instead of buckle down and learn how to be a son. He'd been a foolish kid. A foolish, stupid, rotten kid. Couldn't learn a lesson even when it whomped him right on the seat of his britches.

He'd lost the hate for his real father. Throwing him and Mama out had been Murdoch Lancer's choice, but the choices since then had been Johnny's. He was still angry at the man, though. He could have given Maria a good life.

Johnny would do almost anything to go back – to have his family. Instead he was on the outside looking in. The love some families had for each other made his heart ache.

Maybe he should go visit his real father. Ask Murdoch Lancer why he'd done what he'd done. It was wishful thinking. The man would laugh and have Johnny thrown off his ranch. Wouldn't want to see him, not even if Johnny offered him money for his time. Just enough time to answer: why?

He blew hot, then cold: was angry at his father one day, wanted to see him the next. Forgot about him for days, even months – until he saw a happy family. Sometimes he'd dream of his stepfather and Maria. Those were the worst dreams. Visions of a family that never was and never could be.

On the job, he had to pretend he didn't care. There, his Madrid face greeted anyone new, anyone he didn't know well or couldn't trust. Which was most everybody. Some never got to see anything but Madrid. For some, Madrid was the last thing they saw.

Being Madrid helped him build an icy wall to hide the loneliness. The ice protected him from more hurt and loss.

Second chances weren't for the likes of him. It was easier to stay angry at Murdoch Lancer than to imagine a way out from the wall's shadow. Darkness was what Johnny was used to.

 

Chapter 7

The Pinkertons were looking for him again. No one could tell him why. It had happened off and on through the years. No one should be looking for him, but people held onto grudges.

It was easy enough to avoid the Pinks. He liked the game of staying one step ahead. If he went over the border he could fade away out of their reach. He drifted south.

The last job's payout meant he didn't have to work for a time. It was always a good change to be back among normal people. The salt of the earth who only wanted to be left alone to work and take care of their families. Nice people. It was good to remember there were nice people in the world.

They didn't ask him to do things, wouldn't take things, but would accept an offer of help when help was needed. He refused payment in return, other than some food or a place to sleep.

No matter where he drifted, though, it was always the same. Someone was always trying to take from someone else. The people were proud, loved their families and made do despite how much the rich landowners took from them.

A man can only stand so much, though. When revolution called, Johnny Madrid was there and he stepped up to help.

A Pink did find him in the end – rode right into the middle of a firing squad. He must have been paid a lot.

Johnny met Murdoch Lancer after all.

 

Chapter 8

Shot off his horse by that asshole Pardee, Johnny was stuck in bed trying to recover.

During the day, there was that girl, Teresa. Always happy to see him. It sure was easy to think of her like a sister.

Here came Boston, wanting what? Johnny wasn't sure. They'd talk. Well, Boston talked. Johnny listened to the stories, but refused to answer questions. Felt like he did everything short of shooting his half-brother to make him give up and leave. Finally, Boston would leave, saying Johnny needed to rest. You'd think after working all day, the man would want to rest himself. But he'd be back the next night, and they'd do it all again.

Boston knew things, a lot of things. Used words Johnny didn't know – but somehow, the way his half-brother talked he knew Boston didn't look down on him. He'd seen enough of that to know what it felt like.

He could learn from watching his half-brother. Johnny bet he even found it easy to talk to the Old Man.

The Old Man was patient. Johnny had to admit that. Didn't talk or ask questions like his half-brother. Looked in on him, sat up with him at night until Doc Sam said the danger of infection was past. Johnny wasn't sure what to think of Murdoch Lancer.

Not at all like the picture he'd built in his head. Teresa had told the truth. While Johnny was laid up, Murdoch told some of his side of the story when Johnny asked.

The Old Man didn't say a lot, but he sure wasn't lying. Johnny was sure of that. Mama was wrong. The Old Man ... Murdoch did love her. Murdoch had sent for him. Rescued him from that firing squad. Wanted him to stick around.

Teresa and those hardheaded Lancers. Wouldn't leave him alone. Chipped away at the ice protecting his heart.

*****

Lancer itself melted more of the ice. He couldn't say no to that bright sun and blue sky, the deep greens of the ranch and the sweet air. Lancer should have been his home. Could be his home. Johnny tried to push the idea away, but it wouldn't go far. Kept coming back. Seemed to grow roots, the more he tried to pull it out.

He thought about his half-brother. Tall and skinny, with his bowler, plaid and ruffles. He'd helped Johnny up. When he fell, Boston was strong enough to catch him and carry him to safety. Risked his life to save Johnny Madrid – pulled his fat out of the fire when Johnny's plan went to hell – but ol' Boston didn't seem to care he was Madrid. Kept calling him brother, when they weren't really brothers. They were only half-brothers.

Which half, though? His half-brother didn't seem to care if Johnny was Madrid or Lancer, Mexican or White. He seemed to care about just plain Johnny. Boston ... no –  he was Scott. Scott didn't see him as half. Didn't even call him half.

Scott said they were the same in ways that matter. They both sure had dark things in their pasts. Johnny could do a lot worse than be like his half-brother. Scott had seen the elephant. He was a man to ride the river with.

Most men, when pushed, showed up their insides. Didn't always match their outsides. But his half-brother didn't change, no matter how much he was mocked and taunted. Seemed Scott wanted Johnny around. Even said he wanted to get to know him.

His half-brother had met all challenges in those first days. Hadn't backed down or given way when Johnny expected him to. The only crack in that smooth Boston cover had been that day at the lake – but even then, Scott had called him brother.

Johnny had said Scott meant nothing to him. It was a lie.

The rest of the ice around his heart would shatter, if Johnny reached out to Scott.

*****

Johnny let the knot of his hat string drop from his mouth. Seems he'd always learned his lessons the hard way. He'd made his choices and had no one to blame but himself. Now the road forked again – uphill, to a life at Lancer; or down, back to his life as Madrid.

It was easy to slip into old habits. He knew he was good at gunfighting. Gunfighting was all he knew. He also knew it was only a matter of time before he got taken out. It had come close with Pardee.

He had to find the guts to climb that hill.

Johnny hardly dared think of it ... that old wish, the one he knew would never be granted – a family. Here it was, landed right in his lap without him even trying. But he would have to work to keep it. He wanted to keep it.

Murdoch, Teresa – a father, a sister –  and a half-brother.

Scott was his brother. Brother ... it was easier to say than half-brother. He'd try it out.

My brother.

It fit. It fit ol' Scott.

Maybe they could make this family thing work.

 

 

~end~
October 2017

Author Note:
Many thanks to great betas Starlit Drifter and StarGzer.
NokuMarieDeux and JyaGhost gave the almost-final draft a once-over.

Thanks to the Lancer series writers of Highriders, Fix-it Man, The Kid, Cut the Wolf Loose, Warburton's Edge. You put the words in Johnny's mouth. I borrowed them.

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